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Engaging Every Student

January 5, 2022

Dear Slide Doctor: Cultivate Comprehension!

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Pear Deck Team

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Slide Doctor is a Pear Deck series where crowded, lackluster, or otherwise ornery slides are transformed into beautiful, effective ones. Have slides you need help with? Submit your question and slides to the Slide Doctor at with the Subject Line: Slide Doctor!

Dear Slide Doctor,

I’m trying to teach my students to read more carefully. How can I get them to really absorb the information on the page, instead of skimming and speed-reading? What’s the best way to use Pear Deck to help with comprehension?


Close Reader Richard

Lean in closely, Rich — I’ve got the perfect remedy for you, and a little trick to pass along to your students! Boosting comprehension is a breeze with Pear Deck — and it all begins and ends with one of the Slide Doctor’s favorite words: Annotation!

What is annotation, anyway?

Annotation, put plainly, is note-taking. In the context of reading, it’s the act of underlining, highlighting, and writing in the margins. Annotating helps students “cool their jets” (while reading, at least) in order to confront their understanding, ask and answer questions, and interact critically with text. Sounds good, right? To me, annotation is the key to getting your students to really think about the text they’re reading. Let’s dive in!

Annotate to your heart’s content with Pear Deck

Pear Deck is perfect for annotation. You’ll no longer have to print out papers or hand out pencils and highlighters. Instead, simply go into Pear Deck and create a Drawing Slide. Add the text you’d like your students to annotate, and watch them go to work.

Allow me to demonstrate! For this example, we’re going to annotate one of my favorites: “The Raven'' by Edgar Allen Poe. Here’s what it should look like:

Pear deck slide showing The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe and instructions

Slide Doc Tip: More space = More annotation!

Notice how the example above doesn't leave much space for fun? The ‘Doc highly recommends double spacing — which leaves more room to highlight, underline, and take notes! Isn’t the example below more inviting to your young annotators?

Drawing Pear Deck slide

Meet the annotator’s best friend: The highlighter

Highlighting is a key part of annotation, and it’s also intuitive in Pear Deck. Have your students click on the highlighter icon below the slide — just to the right of the pencil icon. Ask your students to highlight words they don’t understand, phrases that need more clarification, and general questions that they might have about the text — like so:

Highlight feature on Pear Deck

No more scribbled notes — just use the text feature!

See that big “T” on the bottom? That’s the text tool — another handy friend! Once students identify difficult words or phrases, encourage them to write out questions, define words, and even rewrite passages in their own voice. All of that is easily done with the text tool! Defining words in this way makes the text relatable and improves student vocabulary.

Text feature on Pear Deck

Encourage marking up the margins

Encourage your students to use either side of the text to ask questions and clarify answers. Are they confused about anything? Write it down! This type of interaction brings the text to life — as if they’re having a conversation with the author. Plus, it also fosters discussion in the classroom!

Margin annotations using text feature Pear Deck

Underlining for understanding

While the Doc personally prefers the highlighter, some students will want to underline. They can use the pencil icon to underline phrases, words, or events that surprise them. Is there something significant happening in the text? Underline it!! This process of interacting with the text in this way not only prompts them to think in the moment,  but it also allows you — as a teacher — to discuss later with the entire class.

Underlined annotations using text feature Pear Deck

Repetitions, similarities, rhyme schemes — Oh my!

When it comes to annotating, the possibilities are practically endless! Do your students see any patterns in the text? Is there a word that’s being used over and over again? Why do they think the author did this? Was it intentional, or by accident? By looking at a text in multiple ways, students dive deeper into themselves and the text. And once you open this conversation up to the class, students are able to understand how their peers think about and see these texts — which can bring new perspectives and different levels of understanding into the text.

With poems like “The Raven,” you can also encourage students to underline rhyme schemes — like I did below:

Color coded annotations on Pear Deck

Got it? Great! Now that you know the basics, here’s a fantastic close-reading exercise to try with your students:

Try the triple read exercise

Show students the power of annotation with a triple read. Ask them beforehand: how does their understanding change after each read?

First read: Call out key ideas and details

The first read is about the main idea. Students use the highlighter to call attention to the most important details, and then summarize what’s going on in the text — in their own words.

Highlight and text annotations on Pear Deck

Second read: Notice the author’s craft and structure

Now that they have the larger picture, it’s time to do a second, more critical read. Why did the author craft the text in this way? Why was the text organized in this fashion? What choices about vocabulary, text structure, or text features were included? And why?

Highlight and text annotations on Pear Deck

Third read: Integrating knowledge and ideas

The third and final read goes even deeper — and it requires students to analyze the text on multiple levels. At this point, they should be really digesting the passage. They should be able to form a complete picture of the text. What does it mean to them? Why do they feel that way?

Text annotations on Pear Deck

Conclusion: Annotating with Pear Deck is a game-changer!

By the end of the lesson, students should have a “light bulb moment” — and notice how their understanding changes after each reading. Teachers can also show students their own thought process when annotating a text — and talk about the differences and similarities between annotation techniques throughout the class.

Highlight and text annotations on Pear Deck

Annotation is a treat because it shows how every student — and every teacher — thinks and processes information. It teaches students to slow down, take their time, and really think about the text assigned to them. And Pear Deck makes annotating easier than ever.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and try it in your class!

Happy annotating, friends!

Illustration by Remy Usman

Looking for more help from the Slide Doctor?
Find the Slide Doctor’s remedies for Immersive Reader on our blog! You can also submit your question and slides to the Slide Doctor at with the Subject Line: Slide Doctor.

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Pear Deck Team

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